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Finding Help for Opioid Addiction in Georgia

Two of the biggest barriers to locating help for opioid addiction in Georgia include a fear or reluctance to make the initial phone call for help, and also the inability to locate treatment services at the time when the person is ready to make that phone call. That means that if help is not available when someone reaches out and they have to go on a waiting list, they might very well die before they actually receive any treatment.

A West Virginia man made the news recently when he called 9-1-1 for help in finding a treatment facility. He watched President Obama give his speech about fighting addiction to opiates, and then he picked up the phone and made the call. Sheriff’s deputies responded to his call and they actually put him in an ambulance and took him to a rehab center. They did, in fact, destroy 158 pain pills that they found in his apartment, but they did not arrest him.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s department told journalists that they do occasionally receive calls via the 9-1-1 line asking for emergency help, and the people who call are not in danger of being arrested. Many states besides West Virginia have enacted drug immunity laws for people who make such calls. Georgia is one of those states, and calling for help with opioid addiction in Georgia will not get you put in jail.

Help for Opioid Addiction: Georgia Report Card

The Trust for America’s Health evaluates all 50 states for providing strategies that will curb addiction to opiate drugs, and Georgia meets 7.5 or 8 out of the 10 strategies. Georgia meets these strategies:

  • Participation in a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). That means if you show up at a pharmacy with a prescription for pain pills, the pharmacist will check to see how many such prescriptions you’ve filled within a given timeframe. All but one of the 50 states participate in PDMPs.
  • Established doctor-shopping laws. All 50 states plus D.C. have passed laws prohibiting doctor-shopping in order to maximize your access to opiate drugs.
  • Education of prescribers. Only 22 states require prescribers of opiate medications to become educated about the dangers of those medications and alternative treatment modalities. That’s right, the doctors need to learn more about pain management.
  • Physical exam requirement. Prescribers of prescription pain pills must have an established relationship with the patients they write for, and a physical exam must be performed. There are 44 states plus D.C. that enforce this requirement.
  • Requiring presentation of identification. Georgia is one of 32 states that require a patient to provide identification when presenting a prescription for opiate pain medication.
  • Lock-in pharmacy requirement. People who are suspected of needing help for opioid addiction in Georgia can be locked into one pharmacy so that they are required to fill all of their opioid prescriptions at that place. An additional 45 states plus D.C. have similar requirements.
  • Amnesty law. Like West Virginia, Georgia passed a medical amnesty law in 2014, guaranteeing that neither the person using nor a family member who calls on their behalf can be prosecuted for the call or arrested for possession of drugs. Surprisingly, such Good Samaritan Laws have been passed in only 17 states plus D.C.
  • Distribution of naloxone. The medical amnesty law includes establishment of a rescue drug law. That refers to the availability and distribution of naloxone by non-medical personnel so that opioid overdoses can be reversed. 17 other states plus D.C. offer rescue drug laws involving naloxone, and more of them are legislating this kind of help. However, large quantities of the drug are not yet available throughout the state, and it’s not getting into the hands of the people who could administer it at the time of an emergency. This is where we’re not sure whether Georgia earns the whole point or just a half point.

Here are Georgia’s areas of deficiency:

  • Although Georgia has established a prescription drug monitoring program, prescribers are not required to utilize it. Only 16 states insist upon prescriber participation.
  • Georgia does not at this writing participate in Medicaid Expansion, unlike 24 other states and D.C., which offers coverage of opioid addiction treatment.

Georgia overdoses from opioids tripled between 1999 and 2011, but they have leveled out over the past several years. From 2012 to the present, overdoses have “only” doubled. Think of how daunting that statistic is, despite the reduction: It means that for every 100,000 people living in the State of Georgia, 11 of them will die from an opioid overdose, despite the availability of help for opioid addiction in Georgia.

Getting Help is Easier Than You Think

There is a website for the Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia that is accessible by a person seeking help. Using the links on the website, you can locate programs for opioid addiction in Georgia. Clicking on the little orange pinheads will give you the addresses of facilities near you.

You can also watch a brief video about what it’s like to be on methadone. The young man in the opening sequence states that it took only a few days for the withdrawal symptoms to go away. His wife tells us that she is thankful he is in treatment and finds herself grateful to be alive because life is so much better now.

If you’re addicted to opiates and you’re still struggling to find help, one of the advantages you have is the availability of treatment for opioid addiction in Georgia. After all, Georgia scores higher than most states in the parameters listed above. Only 2 of the states, New Mexico and Vermont, meet all 10 of the requirements. West Virginia, the place where President Obama spoke, sits near the Appalachian belt, with the highest rate of opioid overdose fatalities extending from there to the Southwest region of the country.

Georgia’s great score compared with other states nevertheless leaves unaddressed the two most common barriers to opioid treatment. Funds for treatment may not yet be readily available, and many providers of treatment for opioid addiction in Georgia will not even bill your insurance. And there is still little education about the assessment process in order to make treatment truly accessible.

You should be assured that the assessment will be as comfortable as possible, and Georgia opioid treatment providers that are licensed and certified follow specific guidelines set up for them by regulatory agencies. Until you make that phone call for help, you simply won’t find out how easy it can be. Don’t put off your decision to reach out. You never know when waiting could just put you in the deadliest kind of jeopardy.


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